- Views & Opinions
Despite its long-standing brewing legacy, Milwaukee was relatively late to the party when it came to craft brewing. But the hereditary home of Miller High Life, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Schlitz and Blatz is making up for lost time.
These days, the Cream City is awash in suds of all kinds from multiple small breweries scattered across the metro area. Pull up a stool and dive into some great new Milwaukee beer.
Good things often come in small packages and very good beer is coming from Good City Brewing Co. on Milwaukee’s east side. Brewmaster and University of California-Davis grad Andy Jones is coaxing a surprisingly diverse collection of beers from his 17-barrel brewing system, much of which is available in Good City’s Farwell Avenue taproom.
Styles range from the eminently drinkable Dapper, a proper British session ale with 4.2 percent alcohol by volume, to the surprisingly dangerous BFG, or Big Friendly Goodness, a deceptively smooth barleywine that weighs in at 11.8 percent ABV. Top marks go to Motto, a single-malt/single-hop pale ale with 5.2 percent ABV and just the right level of Mosaic hops to make it both juicy and resinous on the palate.
Brewer Kevin Wright must be doing something right, or maybe he just has a lot of friends. His Third Space Brewing Co., co-founded with Andy Gehl in Milwaukee’s Third Ward in September 2016, recently earned top honors as Wisconsin’s best new brewery, according to RateBeer.com, the online platform on which consumers weigh in on their favorite beers.
The RateBeer Best, an annual competition now in its 15th year, tallies the scores awarded for some 470,000 beers to determine the best beers, brewers and beer retailers worldwide. Third Space received its honor at a live ceremony in Santa Rosa, California earlier this year.
The taproom lineup includes Happy Place, a Midwest pale ale with 5.3 percent ABV; That’s Gold!, a golden Kolsch-style beer at 4.8 percent ABV; Acres Edge, a toasted oatmeal stout at 5.7 percent ABV; Happy Happy, a high-octane version of Happy Place with 8.5 percent ABV; and a few others. Wright’s lineup is well-balanced, featuring something for every beer drinker.
Jimmy Gohsman knows craft beer can sometimes begin with home brewing and jump to the pros. The Denver native is one of those lucky ones and now serves as head brewer for the newly opened City Lights Brewing Co.
The brewery, which evolved from 4 Brothers Blended Beer Co., is in the former Milwaukee Gas Light Company structure built in 1902 to facilitate the coal gasification process necessary to light the street lamps throughout the city of Milwaukee. The building, designed by architect Alexander Eschweiler with bricks glazed by Tiffany, took a lot longer to rehab than expected due to historic preservation considerations. But in the end, the wait was worth it.
Gohsman’s beer lineup takes a traditional bent and includes an amber ale at 5.5 percent ABV, an IPA at 7.2 percent ABV, a brown ale at 5.7 percent ABV, and a session IPA at 4.5 percent ABV. You may want to go for the beer and stay for taproom’s stunning restoration and historical significance.
Every beer comes with its own legend. Here’s a good one: Black Husky Brewing was born in a log cabin. Really.
Tim and Toni Eichinger started brewing in a cabin in Pembine, a little town just inside the border from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Inspired by their son’s sled dog kennel and their pet husky Howler, a brand-new line of beers was born in 2010.
But as beautiful as Wisconsin’s north woods can be, the Eichingers ran into logistical problems trying to satisfy a growing number of Milwaukee bars and restaurants. Their solution? Relocate the brewery to Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood, which they did in 2016.
Husky imagery, some fanciful, abounds on the beers’ labels, each of which features a different dog from the Eichingers’ kennel. The taproom lineup of eight beers includes The Original Black Husky Pale Ale, with 7.2 percent ABV, brewed with Simcoe hops and featuring Howler on the label; Sproose 2 IPA, an aggressive 8.6 percent ABV IPA brewed with spruce and featuring Lothar “the biter”; Three Scrutineers, an 8.4 percent ABV Belgian-style Tripel featuring White Knight, Papa and Fish adorned in pope hats; and close to a dozen others.
Tommy Vandervort was a UWM poli-sci and philosophy graduate when he entered public service and eventually took on the role of District 1 alderman for the city of Oak Creek. That would be enough to drive anyone to drink.
Instead, Vandervort founded Enlightened Brewing Co. in Bay View. In 2014, he brought on brewer James Larson, who holds a master’s degree in brewing and distilling from Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, and who spent time in operations for Michigan’s famed Bell’s Brewery.
Together, Vandervort and Larson have come up with some inventive brews. Eight beers are currently on tap, including Benevolent Brew, a 7.4 percent ABV English ale; Enlightened Sustained Thought Coffee Stout with 6 percent ABV; te ipsum (Latin for “yourself”), a 6.5 percent ABV American pale ale; and Cream City Brix, a 5 percent ABV cream ale.
The last one is, of course, an inside joke for area residents who understand the origin of Milwaukee’s Cream City moniker and know “brix” refers to the amount of fermentable sugars in an aqueous solution. And now you know, too!
Good City Brewing Co.
2108 N. Farwell Ave., Milwaukee
Third Space Brewing Co.
1505 W. St. Paul Ave., Milwaukee
City Lights Brewing Co.
2200 W. Mount Vernon Ave., Milwaukee
Black Husky Brewing Co.
909 E. Locust St., Milwaukee
Enlightened Brewing Co.
2018 S. First St., Milwaukee